If all the companies vying to get drone services into the air are even halfway successful, there stands to one day be quite a few unmanned vehicles buzzing about overhead. Russia is taking steps to manage all that potential new traffic, with its space agency announcing plans to test a nationwide monitoring network for drones.
Russia's drone traffic-management system will make use of GLONASS, the country's own version of GPS, along with new purpose-built ground infrastructure developed by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.
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This infrastructure includes a so-called "Navigation Application Platform," which handles the route-planning for individual drones and a "Geoinformation System," which is integrated with government and industry information systems and keeps track of no-fly zones.
This system, Roscosmos says, will monitor the location, route and flight parameters of thousands of drones flying through Russian airspace, automatically generating flight paths for operators at their request. Data will be transmitted over existing cellular communication and satellite systems, along with VHF transmitters.
NASA too has a similar project in the works, which would designate certain corridors of US airspace for different types of drones. The deployment of such a system is still years away, but it too is aimed at ushering in an era of safe and widespread use of drones. Roscosmos hopes that its system will cut the cost of drone use by eliminating risk and therefore encouraging the creation of new industries. It will begin practical testing this year.